Before we start, let’s make sure we are on the same page. A ‘false allegation’ is by definition, a claim that someone has made about a person or situation that isn’t true. In other words, a lie. False allegations are lies. Which makes the people who disseminate false allegations against other people, liars. This may seem harsh, we understand, but it is the truth, and the truth is ultimately what we are after here.
We can all agree that lies can have a devastating impact on people’s lives. Lies make innocent people look like monsters, and let people who’ve done wrong get away without consequences. This is particularly true when we are talking about child abuse. In the same way that allegations of an affair could seriously alter the outcome of a divorce proceeding 30 years ago, so an allegation of child abuse now has that same ability to alter the outcome of a bitter divorce or contentious custody battle.
Times have changed, which means that the tools people use to manipulate situations to suit themselves have changed also. Where before one could lie about a spouse’s fidelity to ensure a favorable outcome in a divorce, now one simply has to accuse your spouse of child abuse. What is fascinating, however, and also rather frightening, is the fact that several different studies have shown a direct link between false allegations of abuse in divorce or custody situations, and a high instance of mental illness in one form or another in the accusers.
In a study done by Hollida Wakefield and Ralph Underwager, psychologists who studied this phenomena in their own practice, and who become advocates for the falsely accused in court, it was noted that when compared to instances of divorce where there were no allegations,…“The falsely accusing parents were much more likely than were the other two groups to have a personality disorder such as histrionic, borderline, passive-aggressive, or paranoid. Only one-fourth were seen as normal.”
There are rarely consequences for unsubstantiated claims of abuse and neglect
According to Wakefield and Underwager, one of the reasons they provided for why there was such a dramatic rise in unsubstantiated claims of abuse, was because of the way the existing system rewarded the accuser and punished the accused. This was the case, they claim,even if the allegations were later proven to be groundless. “The person who is hated is punished. There is social approval for making the accusation. There may be free legal counsel, welfare payments, approbation and support from mental health professionals, therapists, friends, family, neighbors. There is no response cost for making an accusation.”
In addition to the four personality disorders mentioned in the study, Dr Edward Nunes, MD, Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center, has proposed an additional disorder. According to Dr Nunes, the most current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) recognises ten individual personality disorders. However, in his practice he has discovered five to be far more prevalent with regard to false allegations of abuse.
These include Histrionic Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and Paranoid Personality Disorder. Next time we will be looking at these individual disorders a little more closely, and discuss options for how to protect yourself during a divorce or custody battle, when dealing with a spouse whom you suspect may struggle with one or more of these disorders.